[Mostly written in January 2019, posted way late :/] I finally got an Instant Pot! Well, we got it – my husband and me, from my husband’s parents for Christmas. I’ve been considering it for at least two years… I see so many people rave about it. But I wasn’t sure what it would add over my existing kitchen implements. Now that I have an infant, though, and less time to cook, I thought it was finally time to get one and cut down on cooking time.
I’m still learning how to use it. The first two things I did were steamed broccoli and steamed artichokes. The artichokes were a little over steamed and the broccoli was way over steamed. And I’m not sure it cuts out time for steaming. Maybe for the artichokes it did. Then I made butternut squash soup. This went better. I’m not totally sure it was less work/time than making it in a Dutch oven, but it was pretty easy and quick.
And then today, I made a pot roast with potatoes, carrots, and onions. I had a 2.5 lb bottom round roast from Butcher Box. I looked up a recipe to make it in the Instant Pot and found this one from La Creme de la Crumb, which also called for carrots and potatoes – two things I had on my counter and needed a plan for. Check.
I used chicken stock, because that’s what I had on hand, and only 3 cups because that’s what I had and I forgot to add an extra cup of water until after I’d closed the lid and the pressure was building. My roast was smaller than in the recipe, so I hoped it would be ok. It was. I also did the pressure cooking step for 55 minutes instead of 60-80, again since my roast was smaller. I actually think this was a bad decision and that the meat would have benefited from a little more cooking time. It was a litttttttle tough to shred. But I didn’t need to shred it a ton, just into chunks.
It was so nice to do all the steps in one pot! And I made gravy! I’ve never made gravy. Clean up was super easy. I didn’t have to watch or stir or check or anything (except a bit during the gravy-making stage). It still took a while, but would’ve taken way longer on the stove or in the oven. I’m hooked.
I ate it for dinner over some kale to get some greens in. I meant to give Gabriel some of the meat to suck on when I fed him solids for dinner, but I forgot.
We had leftovers for several meals. I’m not sure pot roast ever has been or will be a favorite meal of mine, but I would definitely consider doing it in the Instant Pot again!
My approach to weekends has changed a bit since having Gabriel. I used to be v.e.r.y hesitant to make plans, preferring to hole up and homebody (and often cook :)). I still would probably prefer that, but it’s no longer possible with an infant, who needs to be looked after and somewhat entertained all day. It’s nice to spend time together, but it’s also sometimes exhausting (especially if he’s fussy) or boring (if we read the same book five times or just sit on the floor and bang toys around). So having activities to do to get out of the house is often a welcome distraction for us both. It keeps us entertained. So I find myself saying yes to more things than I used to. This weekend I did four events in two days, which would have been totally unheard of pre-baby. And enjoyably, most were holiday-themed!
On Saturday, I attended the annual Baltimore Delta Gamma alumnae ornament exchange. I brought Gabriel, of course. Dan works overnight on Fridays so sleeps til 1 or 2pm on Saturdays. I love this event. The hostess has a lovely home and makes a delicious brunch, and we exchange ornaments white elephant style. I came home with two anchor ornaments that look nice on our tree. Gabriel did great. Around his nap time, I put him in the Ergo to see if he’d sleep on me, which we hadn’t tried in months. It took a bit (~20 minutes?) but he eventually fell asleep. It was nice, because we don’t cuddle like that anymore (goal: independent sleep habits, achieved). And then I think he slept on the car ride home.
That evening (okay, late afternoon really), we went to a friends’ house to have latkes and light Hanukkah candles. She has a two year old and a three month old and was very impressive wrangling them both (Dan and I weren’t much help unfortunately – they mostly wanted their mom’s attention) until her husband came home. It was really nice to visit. Gabriel had a 30-minute late bedtime, but was okay.
On Sunday, we had three couples over, two of which have two kids each, ages 3-6. Four of the six adults went to high school with Dan, and we all try to get together roughly annually. Before Dan and I lived in the area, we would see them when we came to Dan’s parents for the holidays. Now that we live nearby, we don’t see them any more frequently unfortunately, but it’s nice when we do. I made this chili from The Real Food RDs (added kidney beans near the end), and it was a big hit. One couple brought cornbread and beer, another cookies, and the other cookies. We had a great visit, got to enjoy entertaining in our new house, and proved that multiple young children can survive in and enjoy the space.
Finally, yesterday evening we went to another friend’s house in Hampden to celebrate their daughter’s third birthday and walk to 34th St to see the wild Christmas lights that the entire block participates in. They do it every year, it’s a Baltimore thing, but I’d never gone. There was a Santa on a Harley Davidson and other Baltimore things. We didn’t stay for long – it was again past Gabriel’s bedtime and he was letting us know it, but it was still fun to walk around with him and see the lights.
I think we (well, me) paid for the schedule disruption this morning when Gabriel woke up crying an hour early. Dan always says something like, well, maybe he’ll sleep well tonight, or maybe he’ll sleep in, when he gets less sleep due to missed naps or late bedtime. But no – it throws everything out of whack and usually results in less sleep for me. But I’m starting to be well-rested enough to think that sometimes it’s worth it, because I had a lot of fun this weekend!
First, let me just acknowledge and move on from the fact that I haven’t posted since August. Clearly, other things have been my priority. That’s okay.
Moving on. In October, a colleague of my husband’s and close friend gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. This friend and her husband also have a dog that we often temporarily adopt when they are out of town, and they do the same for us and our dog. Their dog, Stark, has made an appearance in at least one previous post. I’ve never done this for friends before, but I decided to make several freezable meals for them so they would have easy food after the birth of their child. (So, not baby food – but food-for-parents-that-just-had-a-baby doesn’t roll off the tongue as well.)
I selected four recipes that I thought would freeze well and that would provide some variety. For them, I made four servings each, so 16 individually packaged meals in total. The recipes usually made more, so this was also my meal prep for the week! They were all recipes I’d made before, except one. I chose most from the Fed&Fit cookbook, because most of those package and freeze well, and I like them!
Lemony Kale and Sausage soup from Fed&Fit. I believe I added some potatoes and used both sausage and ground turkey (because I had it on hand).
Lagered Turkey Chili from Ali Larter’s Kitchen Revelry. I’d made this recently for myself (see photos below), and it was delicious.
BBQ Chicken Casserole from Fed&Fit. This was the one I’d never made before, but I thought it turned out great! Dan and I had 4 servings of our own from the recipe to enjoy, so it was great.
Tomato and Sausage Frittata from Fed&Fit. Easy and good. I made with chorizo.
Now, I don’t eat frequently with these friends. My husband spends more time with them (as I mentioned, the wife is a colleague of my husband’s). I’ve been to their house for a meal of grilled fish and another for a barbecue with hot dogs and hamburgers. I wasn’t aware of any major food preferences. However, after I was most of the way through making the meals, my husband informed me that he wasn’t “sure they ate much meat.” Hm. Well.
So, I wrote a note that I sent along with the meals when I gave them to them explaining what the meals were and that I mostly eat paleo-ish (lots of vegetables and meat) so that’s the way I cook, and that all of the meat was as high quality as we’re able to get. They did indeed eat them, but the wife told me later that she’d become vegetarian several months before. I’m not sure if she ate any or just let her husband, even though I think he’s eating mostly vegetarian also. Alas. I respect their decisions but also don’t feel bad about providing them super nutrient-dense meals (made more-so by the presence of high quality animal products). Lesson learned for next time though.
I didn’t take photos while cooking, but have some images of other times I’ve made a few of these meals.
It’s a new year! The kitchen looks pretty much the same. Here’s a little bit of what’s been going on:
I made posole on New Years Eve! I basically followed the recipe in my previous post except… I bought a 3.7 lb Boston butt from the farmers market that morning that was frozen and on the bone. I was mostly able to thaw it before cooking, but not enough to cut it up into chunks, so I just threw the whole thing in there and started trying to shred after about two hours. I cooked it for 3-3.5 hours total. Dan and I both thought it was okay while eating it. Then we remembered to season it with salt and add some lime and cilantro. Then it was really good. I forgot to take a lot of pictures, so I’ll share a couple pictures from when I made it 5.5 years ago, and a couple from Saturday. Sorry, my photography was just as bad then as it is now.
Look how clean my Lodge Dutch oven was! I think it was newish then.
Yep, that’s all I got. The red sauce was definitely darker this time. I didn’t use Anaheim chiles. I used… I forget. I’m sorry! They were just some dried chiles that I found at Harris Teeter a couple weeks ago. And, I think in future, I would prefer the pork chunks I’ve used before over the shredded pork I used this time. It made the stew fattier and heavier this time.
A couple nights before NYE, I made Greek turkey burgers and an arugula salad with tahini sauce from RealPlans (the burgers actually called for ground chicken, not turkey, but turkey’s what I had).
The night before the last night of Hanukkah, we made latkes. My first time ever! We paired them with roasted vegetables and some leftover chicken thighs in mole sauce that Dan had made before.
On NYE morning, I sorta made a Benedict out of leftover latkes. Except without hollandaise sauce. And a fried egg instead of poached. Is that still sort of a Benedict? Okay, it was just latke piled with smoked salmon, sautéed spinach, sliced tomato, fried egg, and yogurt. It was delicious.
Yesterday morning (post NYE celebrating), I made the NYTimes shakshuka for breakfast for my friend who’d spent the night and me. No pictures. I had leftovers this morning (and a leftover latke – oof, a big full breakfast before CrossFit. Normally I don’t eat before my 5:30am class, but the gym only had a 9:30am class today due to the holiday, and I woke up starving, so had to eat). Ohhhh, and last night, Dan and I finally ate the remaining bone marrow that I bought from The Pigheaded Butcher many months ago. I also bought a ton of bones for broth when I bought the pork shoulder at the farmer’s market on Saturday, so I started a batch of bone broth last night. It’s been making the house smell real good all night and morning. I’ll strain and jar it in a couple hours. Bone broth for the new year!
And that’s it!
I’m going to clean out the fridge today. That’ll feel good. While watching Gilmore Girls. I’m on season 6. I do this every fall/winter. This is the season where Rory and Lorelei are not talking for the first half season. Not my favorite, but I’m marching on :-).
And I’m going to have leftover posole for lunch. New Year’s off to a good start!
Posole(pozole) is traditional holiday food in some places in Mexico, as well as in New Mexico. I was treated to some white posole while in Albuquerque last week. I plan to make posole rojo on New Years Eve or New Years Day this year, which I’ve done before, but apparently not for several years. I had trouble finding the recipe I’ve used (which I recall, I cobbled together after looking at various other recipes), but I finally did! I wrote it in a Word document with a file name: my first attempt at posole 060611 (meaning it’s from June of 2011. I can’t wait to make it. I might make a few variations from what I have below, but I do recall it being quite good. I was pretty new at cooking then, as you’ll see. This is what it says:
My first attempt at posole
Make a red chili sauce (2:45 pm)
I bought 4 red chilis. I didn’t know enough about different kinds of chilis to even know if they were dried, even though they were thin and papery. But I thought that’s just how they might be. I googled peppers and have finally determined that they are dried California chilis. Apparently, both California chilis and New Mexican chilis are Anaheim chilis, but when grown in California, they are more mild than those grown in NM. After looking at a few posole recipes, I decided to cook and make a sauce out of the red chilis first.
4 dried red New Mexican or California chilis*
3 cloves garlic
~ 2tbsp olive oil
dash of salt
two pinchfuls of oregano (all recipes call for Mexican oregano, but I don’t have that, nor do I know what it is)
1.5 c. chicken broth
Dice and sauté onion in oil in Dutch oven on the stove (over medium or low/medium heat). (This time, I also diced and sautéed the top ¼ of a red bell pepper just because I had it and wanted to use it – it was going bad). Slice open the side of each red chili then slice off stem and pour out as many seeds as possible and pull out the vein(s) if possible. After onion is soft, add salt and oregano. Add garlic and sauté for less than a minute. Add chicken broth. Add peppers and let them soak/boil in the stock for 15 minutes. Move everything to a food processor and process until smooth.
Store extra in the fridge, or freeze.
Makes about 1.5-2 cups
2. To make soup:
2 cups red sauce
1 lb pork, cut into ½-1 inch pieces (most recipes call for pork shoulder, which I can never find… I’ve just been using pork loin chops)
28 oz hominy
8 cups liquid (mix between broth and water)
Add 4 cups liquid (broth)
Bring to a boil, then decrease to simmer/low boil
Add enough more liquid to make it seem like enough
Add the red sauce after an hour
Cook for however much more time you have.
(Note: some recipes call for shredding pork… so you cook the pork for an hour or so and then shred it and then put it back in. I think you just have to cook the hell out of it to get it shreddable…?)
cabbage or lettuce
*“Anaheims are the California produce industry’s name for the New Mexican pod type. When Anaheim chiles turn red and are dried, they are called California chiles. California chiles are mild in comparison to other chiles. Dried California chiles are a shiny dark red. They’re mildly pungent, ranging on average from 2 to 3 out of 10 on the Scoville heat scale.” (from: http://www.specialtyproduce.com/index.php?item=734&name=Dried_California_Chile_Peppers)
Today is the day after Christmas. Dan and I arrived home from Albuquerque at 1am, where we’d been celebrating with my family and close family friends. I don’t have work today, so I’ve been spending the day shopping and cooking to prepare for the week.
I mentioned last week in my post about what I’ve been up to lately that I’ve been making Alanna’s Cranberry Pumpkin Nut & Seed Loaf on Love & Lemons regularly. I’m not generally into alternative foods to replace other foods… I never wanted to ‘soy-sage’ when I was vegetarian, and I don’t want non-bread (i.e., gluten free) bread now. But. This is nicely termed a ‘loaf,’ not bread. And it’s delicious. And, it’s probably not even gluten-free because I’ve been using regular Quaker Old Fashioned Rolled Oats. So there.
It does have grains (oats) in it, and I’m not sure where the paleo community stands on psyllium husk (okay, I just googled and found this as one data point), so this isn’t really a paleo-friendly recipe. I eat it in the morning, generally as part of my breakfast after working out. The ingredients initially made me fear a bathroom nightmare, but it hasn’t caused any problems. Ahem. (It’s had no effect either way, as far as I can tell.)
I have not once followed the recipe exactly. I try to keep the oats, binding ingredients (flax, chia seeds, and psyllium husk), and wet ingredients to the right proportions, but I’ve varied the nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and oil each time I’ve made it. I may have varied the maple syrup one or two times also, since I often prefer to limit my use of sugar in recipes, even natural sugar. I’ve used almonds, sunflower seeds, pecans, dried apricots, dates, and raisins. Often in more or less the right amounts, but often less as well. I’ve used olive oil and melted coconut oil for the oil. I’ve used canned pumpkin and homemade pumpkin. Today, I added some shredded coconut.
I cut each 9×5 loaf into sixteen thin slices. I toast and eat one each morning with butter. The rest stays wrapped tight in tin foil and kept in the fridge for eating over the next two weeks. Yum.
Below are some of MY photos, but if you follow the link to the recipe on Love & Lemons, there are some really beautiful photos.
Dry ingredients mixed together.
Wet ingredients added.
Ingredients formed into a loaf with a blob of pumpkin…
My host in Albuquerque sent me home with some fresh frozen roasted green chiles, bless her. My holiday in Albuquerque included posole and green chile stew instead of traditional Christmas fare. We left in a bit of a hurry yesterday, and Dan was sad that he missed another serving of green chile stew, so I promised him I would make him some at home. Voila!
I didn’t follow a recipe, but I progressively threw all of the following into a Dutch oven, brought it to a boil, turned it down, and simmered for over an hour:
1 tbsp? bacon grease
4 garlic cloves
Less than half of a red pepper (the amount determined by what was leftover in the fridge)
1 lb. ground beef
10 oz. green chile (6 oz. of the defrosted fresh chiles, plus 4 oz. from a container – but still from New Mexico)
3 russet potatoes (~650 grams)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 container (4 cups) beef stock
About to head downstairs and eat it now. I haven’t tasted it yet! Hopefully it’s good :-).
In addition to the green chile, I also brought home New Mexican piñon coffee and memories of luminarias, beautiful New Mexican scenery, and a barely-white Christmas.
Last Sunday, Dan and I put up our holiday decorations. It was two days after Thanksgiving, which had been nice and filling, but not incredibly painful and indulgent. Nevertheless, I was in the mood for something filling but not super-heavy to round out the weekend and to enjoy after we set up our house for the holidays.
I wanted to use the small butternut squash from our Hungry Harvest box the week before as well as some of the pumpkin purée I’d made in October and have frozen in the freezer. I decided to make a pumpkin stew. I looked up a couple recipes for ideas but didn’t follow any particular one. On the stovetop in my Lodge enameled cast iron Dutch oven, I progressively added each of the following (all amounts ‘ish’):
1 tbsp bacon fat
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 small butternut squash, after peeling, removing seeds, and cutting into 1/2 to 1 inch cubes. Ish.
About 1.3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
About 1.3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
4? Cloves garlic
3 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper powder
1 tsp chipotle chili powder
4 cups homemade pumpkin purée
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
I let it come to a boil, then put the lid mostly on and put it on low to simmer for 90 minutes. I then added a bit more chili powder and salt. I definitely should have added more spices at the beginning. It was tasty, but not spicy (or spiced-tasting).
We garnished with lime juice, cilantro, green onion, and Dan added some shredded cheese. We froze the leftovers and have been continuing to eat them. It’s thick and hearty without feeling too heavy.
And our house is decorated! We put on holiday music and got it done. Dan spent most of the time getting the lights on the outside railing while I put ornaments on the tree. Penelope had a blast hanging out in the box with the newspaper that had been used to wrap the ornaments.
So, I’ve been busy cooking and prepping and cooking some more. The BA Food Lovers Cleanse seems to be a little easier this year. I mean, I’m not doing the whole thing by any stretch, so that makes it much easier. But the recipes (mostly dinners) that I am doing seem easier. Fewer ingredients, less chopping. Some of them still take a long time, but there’s less active time.
The first BACleanse meal I made was mahi-mahi without the beans (#Whole30 and all that), which I’d never cooked before, and a side of rainbow chard with mushrooms. The mahi was good. I’ve never loved chard, and I’m afraid I didn’t wash mine enough, so it tasted sort of grainy. But the mushrooms were delicious. It doesn’t look very appetizing in pictures, unfortunately :-(.
Next up was the Moroccon lamb with pomegranates. The recipe called for lamb shanks, but I could only find lamb shoulder. Google told me that they are both tougher meats that do best with long cooking, so I figured they were similar enough. I bought the shoulder.
Side note 1: I have only somewhat-recently begun eating significant amounts of meat, and apparently it hasn’t been long enough to learn the different types of meat and cuts and what’s good for what. But now, thanks to the Food Lovers Cleanse, I know this about lamb at least.
Side note 2: I learned several years ago that, according to the Environmental Working Group, lamb has the highest environmental impact of the meats Americans typically eat. So my husband and I generally avoid it. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve only had lamb a few other times in my life. I remember trying a ‘lamburger’ at… I think the state fair?… in second grade. And maybe one or two other times. However, the whole reason I like doing the BACleanse is to try new things… and let’s be honest, I like having a schedule and sticking to it. To a fault.
So back to making the lamb. Shoulder instead of shanks. I really wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do to the meat. I trimmed off most the fat and cut the meat from the bone (which I don’t think would have been necessary for shanks, but seemed to be necessary for what I had), and saved the bones in the freezer for making bone broth sometime soon. And, instead of braising it in the oven, I used my brand new slow cooker that my sister gave me for Christmas. And then left the house to go to yoga.
The pomegranate juice and seeds in this made it really fruity and sweet – in a good way. I’m not sure if this is what was supposed to happen, but my dish resulted in more of a stew than anything else, and that’s how I’ve been eating it. I still have one serving frozen in the freezer. Yum.
I made both these dishes on a weekend (Saturday and Sunday nights). That was especially important for the lamb, which required several hours at least to braise/slow cook. I think I slow cooked it for about 3 or so.
I’ll write about the other dishes I’ve been making in a later post, which will probably be less exciting because I have been forgetting to photographically document my process for most of them.
Making pumpkin puree has become an annual tradition for me, one that I use to celebrate the arrival of Fall. This year, I made it on October 4th, which was maybe a little early. It was officially Fall, but the weather was still pretty summery, and I had a little trouble finding the small pumpkins I wanted. However, it was also a rare weekend in town, and making pumpkin puree is an all-day event. I was only in town because Hurricane Patricia rolled through and messed up my weekend plans, and I thought I should seize the opportunity.
This tradition started in October 2012, which was the month Dan and I got married. We decorated the head table at our wedding with sugar pumpkins, and after the festivities were over, I decided to turn them all into puree. I froze the bounty and had delicious, homemade pumpkin puree that lasted me through Winter.
You can only sort of see the pumpkins in the photo above. It’s the only one I could find that even kind of shows them.
Anyway, I used then and continue to use The Pioneer Woman’s homemade pumpkin puree recipe. (Aside: I recently learned that The Pioneer Woman has a TV show, and I saw part of an episode while on a cross-country flight. Who knew. She wasn’t what I expected. Sweeter in person; more sarcastic in blog form. The opposite is probably true of me.)
This year, I bought six pumpkins, knowing that each additional pumpkin means that much more work, but also that much more pumpkin puree. The first step is to cut the tops off. One of the six proved much too hard to cut off. I swear it was like plastic. I also made Dan try. The knife simply did not cut into the flesh at all. So I put that pumpkin out on the front steps for decoration, and proceeded to use only five pumpkins. A week later, someone had smashed the poor pumpkin in the street. Whoever did it must have been much stronger than Dan or me.
The whole process took maybe five hours. And made me realize that the 30-year old food processor that my mom gave me is not as effective as my cheap immersion blender, so… I think it’s gonna go.
I now have pumpkin puree galore! From the picture above, it looks like I filled 8 quart-size bags. I’m not sure if each has a quart, though. I used a 1-cup measuring cup to scoop the puree into each bag, and only did two (albeit, overflowing) scoops into each bag.
While making the puree, I also roasted the seeds (somewhat following this recipe from Oh She Glows and adding Penzey’s Cajun seasoning). That night, I made some really delicious pumpkin chili. Like, really delicious. Dan thought it was fantastic. Unfortunately, as I so often do (especially with soups and stews), I didn’t follow any specific recipe or document what I did. Just now, I Googled pumpkin chili to try and find a few that I could recommend, but you can do the Googling just as well as I, and I don’t really know what to recommend. I’m sure it involved at least:
beans (kidney, black, pinto probably/maybe)
maybe a final jalapeño from my rooftop pots
maybe bell pepper
pumpkin puree obviously
Anyway, it was good. And spicy!
I have since made pumpkin chili twice. Once was adapted from this Serious Eats turkey pumpkin chili recipe. It was good, but not as good as that first night. The second one was adapted from this recipe for easy slow cooker southwester 2 bean chicken from the gracious pantry (which my friend, Emily, shared with me over a year ago). Heavily adapted: I started with but did not fully use a slow cooker, I added onions, I only used a tiny bit of salsa (and only because I felt like I needed something to add a little more flavor at the end, and I don’t even know if it achieved it – I then added chili powder), I used three types of beans, and I added pumpkin, obvi. So. Anyway. Also good, but not as good. I’ll eat the last two servings of that batch this week for lunch – I only need two lunches this week because it’s a holiday week, so no salad jars this week.
In October, I also used some of the pumpkin to make Running on Veggies’pumpkin cranberry oat muffins, which were an attempt to use the pumpkin in a non-chili recipe, while also reintroducing some grains (which I’d been avoiding for months) but remaining mostly gluten-free. I thought they were tasty, but they didn’t really rise like muffins should, and I’m pretty sure that people enjoying non-gluten-free muffins wouldn’t choose these over those.
This past Friday night, I also made hamburgers with pumpkin puree, using Civilized Caveman’s recipe (without the honey drizzle). They were really good. I think it might have been the pumpkin pie spice more than the pumpkin puree, but who knows.
I’m not sure how else I’ll use the pumpkin this year. In years past, I’ve used it to make homemade pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread, but since I’m still not really eating sugar and bread, I probably won’t be doing that. Regardless, I’m pretty sure that whatever I do with it will be delicious, because, pumpkin puree.